Different local councils in the UK have conveyed SMS to a huge number of citizens to encourage them to cover outstanding sums. The messages contained links to online databases that facilitated lists of different citizens whose information shouldn’t be available to any other person. Lamentably, there was no security or any type of verification to keep the leak from occurring, so a large number of UK taxpayers have had their complete names, home addresses, and outstanding debts exposed.
The blunder was the work of Telsolutions Ltd., an organization that has given the contact and communication services to the local councils, which was contracted to urge tax defaulters to pay up. This is a typical strategy that is trailed by private and public entities around the world. Other than the psychological repercussions for the recipients of these messages, there is also the danger of data exposure.
Other than SMS, the council tax services likewise use emails and surprisingly recorded voice messages. The entirety of this makes the space for tricksters to move in also, as taxpayers having to deal with official communications with their state through third-parties is the ideal setting for trickery. The information of this exposure reached The Register, who checked and affirmed that the information was indeed accessible via the sent short links. The entirety of the shared URLs have been taken offline now as both Telsolutions and some of the authorities were informed about the mistake. However, as the UK press webpage affirms, web crawlers have already caught some of these public entries, empowering individuals to search others and see their addresses, tax debts, etc.
After investigating the enumerable URLs, it was found that London’s Bexley Council, a client of the Telsolutions service, had implemented no authentication at all. Anybody could unreservedly see the full details of an alleged tax defaulter in the borough without proving their identity. To see the data of another taxpayer, the recipient should have simply followed the URL from the SMS, modify the alphanumeric characters, and click a button labeled “proceed”.
Altogether, apparently, 14 councils have followed the same erroneous method after trusting the particular service provider. That incorporates Barnet, Bexley, Brighton, Cardiff, Coventry City, Greenwich, Lambeth, Redbridge, Southampton City, and Walsall.
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